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SOA Watch: Close the School of the Americas
Connecting the Dots: SOA Watch activists join Bolivian and U.S. partners in the struggle against impunity PDF Print E-mail

Just last week SOA Watch founder, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, and SOA Watch Partnership America Latina (PAL) Director, Lisa Sullivan arrived in La Paz, Bolivia upon invitation to accompany four men who have been struggling against impunity and injustice in Bolivia and in the U.S. since Black October in 2003.  For a full report back from Lisa and more photos, click here.

Click here for more photos

 
26 People Arrested and Held in County Jail on Mulitple Charges PDF Print E-mail

Thousands Converge at the gates of Fort Benning for 20th Anniversary of November Vigil to Close the SOA

Nonviolent civil disobedience action followed by indiscriminate arrests and targeting of journalists. Among those arrested by Columbus police were three journalists, including unrelated bystanders.

Thousands of human rights activists, torture survivors, veterans, faith-based communities, union workers, students, musicians and others from across the Americas are gathered today at the gates of the U.S. military base Fort Benning to call for the closure of the School of the Americas (renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation).

Following the SOA Watch rally, human rights activists brought their nonviolent witness to close the SOA into the street leading onto the military base. The activists briefly shut down the road with a large sign that said, "Stop: This is the End of the Road for the SOA." Their action is part of a longstanding tradition of creative civil disobedience to call attention to the atrocities committed by graduates of the School of the Americas. 10-12 people were arrested, and others charged, including the 90-year old Jesuit priest Bill Brennan, and ordained Catholic priest Janice Sevre-Duszynska.

Two human rights activists crossed onto Fort Benning through the highway entrance. They have been charged with federal trespass and face up to six months in federal prison and a fine up to $5,000.

When the rally participants tried to leave the vigil area, the police blocked off all exit points. After a few minutes, the police allowed people to leave on the sidewalk, only to follow them, indiscriminately arresting people who had neither committed any crimes nor engaged in civil disobedience. Among those arrested were journalists, who were filming the police misconduct and bystanders. All arrestees are currently being held in the Muscogee County Jail for up to a $5,500 bond.



 

We Won't Stop Until They Do!

On April 16, 2012, human rights activists took to the streets around Capitol Hill in a spirited parade, culminating a week of trainings, workshops, music and lobbying to close the School of the Americas. Police on foot, bicycle, motorcycle and in vehicles prohibited free passage of the march, limiting SOA Watch activists abilities to be heard and seen by Congressional staff. Thirteen were arrested as they tried to lead the march down Independence Avenue in front of the Congressional buildings, but were impeded by dozens of police who blockaded their passage and expression of free speech.

Check out more photos of the march and action!


The 13 were released over 6 hours later and ironically charged with "blocking passage". Read their statements here.

Inside Congress, students, teachers, labor leaders and activists pressed their Representatives to cosponsor HR3368, the bill to suspend and investigate the SOA/WHINSEC. Amplify the voices of those who are meeting with their Members of Congress today, by calling your Representative's office in Washington, DC. Just call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard (the phone number is (202) 224-3121), provide the zip code of the place where you live, and the operator will connect you to your Representatives' office. Click here for a call script.

The weekend's conference, strategy sessions and concert brought organizers together around issues of de-militarization, joining the thousands in Cartagena, Colombia, who attended the People's Summit of the Americas.

We will not be silenced. Despite police censorship of our message, the movement to close the SOA/WHINSEC will continue to demand a closure of the School of Assassins and an end to militarization. Our efforts are fueled with the knowledge that we will prevail!

Check out more photos of the march and action!



Desde el Sur

SOA Watch activantes Marlín Rodríguez and Amanda Jordan prepared a short video piece from Chile which was aired to conference and strategy session participants.

 
Urge the U.S. House of Representatives to address Human Rights and Rule of Law in Honduras PDF Print E-mail

IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED!
Contact the Foreign Policy Staffer in Washington DC Office of Your U.S. Rep in Congress!


We need your help!  On Monday, April 28, 2014, Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) began circulating a sign-on "Dear Colleague" letter in the U.S. House of Representatives to Secretary of State John Kerry addressing Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Honduras. Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Farr and Hank Johnson (D-GA) have joined as initial co-signers.  Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) has also now joined as a co-signer.  Below is a copy of the letter.



The letter states that "egregious violations of human rights continue" almost 5 years after the coup.  It raises concerns about militarization of the police, and the failure to investigate or prosecute human rights abuses, including in the Aguan Valley. The letter also raises concerns about freedom of speech and associations, and questions whether the November 2013 election was not free and fair.


The letter asks State Department to:


  • Pay close attention to these issues and strictly evaluate U.S. support for Honduran security forces, in accordance with conditions placed on the aid in the 2014 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act.
  • Fully enforce the Leahy Law, which prohibits U.S. assistance to any individual or unit that has committed gross human rights abuses and is not being brought to justice.

The deadline to sign on is Friday, May 9, 2014 at 5:00 PM eastern time.

We need your help in securing the signature of your Member of the U.S. House of Representatives on this letter.  Only members of the House can sign the letter.

To sign on to the letter (or if the staffer wishes an official copy of the letter), your Rep’s staffer must contactAndrew Goczkowski Andrew.Goczkowski@mail.house.gov in Schakowsky's office. (NOTE: please do not contact Schakowsky's staff yourself, but ask the staffer to do so).


Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, give them the name of your Rep, then ask to be connected:

(If you do not know the name of your Rep, please go to http://www.house.gov/ and enter in your zip code at the upper right).


When you call, ask to speak with the aide who handles Foreign Policy.  Use the script below in speaking with the aide.  If the aide does not recall seeing the letter, ask for the aide’s email address so that you can forward a copy of the letter.


If the foreign policy aide is not is not available, ask to leave a message on his or her voice mail.  Be sure to getthe name foreign policy staffer so you can follow up.

Script: “My name is _____.  I am a constituent from (town / city) in (your state).  I am calling to ask Senator _____ to sign the Jan Schakowsky letter on Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Honduras. Has Representative­___ seen this letter?  Can I count on him/her to sign on?   Please call me this week at (_your phone number_) to let me know if you have seen the letter, and if Representative _____ will sign it.”

In your phone conversation, you might highlight why this letter is important to you, especially if you have travelled to Honduras or heard a Honduran speak in your community.

PROMPT FOLLOW-UP: 

It's useful to follow up with an email to the aide.  You can ask whoever answers the phone what their email is and/or use this formula if you know how to spell their name correctly (the person who first answer the phone can spell it for you):  Firstname.Lastname@mail.house.gov, e.g.  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

In an email, you can just ask them to sign the letter, and then if you like send some information.

Here are two useful general articles, and the recent statement from Reps. McGovern, Schakowsky, and Farr.

If you learn that your Congressmember has agreed to sign, please notify me, Gary Cozette at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , so we can confirm the signature with Rep. Schakowsky. Please contact me if you want to know if your representative has signed on.  I will circulate updated lists of signers whenever we receive them from Rep. Schakowsky's office.

 
Press Release: Protest as Scandal-Ridden President of Honduras Meets with Members of U.S. Congress PDF Print E-mail

For immediate release
March 21, 2017

Contact: Arturo Viscarra, 617-820-3008 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Family members of the slain Honduran environmentalist and Indigenous leader, Berta Caceres, and other activists confront President of Honduras during meeting with Members of U.S. Congress
In wake of serious controversies, JOH asks U.S. Representatives for continued aid


For more photos and video of the protest in Cannon House Office Building, click here

Washington, DC – Protestors, including a sister and niece of the late Berta Caceres, blocked the door to the room where Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was meeting with members of the House Central America Caucus today. President Hernández’s meeting is at the invitation of Central America Caucus founder and co-chair Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA), and follows Rep. Torres response to Caceres’ family members declining their request that she cosponsor the HR 1299, the “Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act.” Caceres’ family members had sent Rep. Torres an open letter urging that she cosponsor HR 1299, citing ongoing murders and threats to social leaders and activists and the flawed investigation into Caceres’ murder. The bill would suspend U.S. support for Honduras’ security forces “until such time as human rights violations by Honduran security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice.” Leaked court documents indicate that at least two of those indicted for Ms. Caceres's murder received extensive U.S. military and intelligence training, including at the infamous School of the Americas.

“A government that fails to protect its citizens and whose security forces are implicated in attacks and killings of activists should not be receiving security funding and training from the U.S. government,” the family’s letter states.

President Hernandez’s visit to DC to meet with the Caucus also comes amidst controversy in Honduras over his intention to run for re-election. Under the Honduran constitution, presidents are limited to one term, but the Supreme Court is allowing Hernandez’s run in 2017. The Honduran Congress removed several Supreme Court judges in 2012 in a “technical coup,” however, after ruling a police reform law unconstitutional. Hernandez was the president of the Congress at the time.

Another scandal looms impicating Hernandez's family, party, and cabinet in drug trafficking. A DEA informant and former member of the Cachiros cartel, Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, testified in a New York court last week that he had discussed a bribery scheme with President Hernandez’s brother, Congressman Antonio “Tony” Hernández. The hearing was about former president Porfirio Lobo's son, Fabio Porfirio Lobo, who plead guilty to trafficking drugs last year. Rivera Maradiaga has also testified that former President Lobo took bribes from the Cachiros, offering protection from authorities, and from extradition, in return. President Hernández is from the same political party, the National Party, as former president Lobo.

Rivera Maradiaga testified that he provided a recording of his meeting with Tony Hernández, in which Hernández requests a bribe, to the DEA. Rivera Maradiaga has also provided courtroom testimony that ties current Honduran Security Minister Julian Pacheco to the Cachiros cartel.

Ms. Caceres's niece stated, "One of my questions to the U.S. government is why are we giving secuity aid to a corrupt government, a government that is protecting narco-traffickers?". She also yelled to President Hernandez as he left the meeting amid heavy security, asking why he refuses to allow an international investigation into the murder of her aunt. She was ignored.

For more information: bertacaceres.org

Sources: The Guardian: Berta Caceres court papers show murder suspects' links to U.S.-trained elite troops; InSight Crime: Another Day, Another Damning Testimony of Elites by Honduras Trafficker; AFP: Honduras vows fight against drug gangs after narco-chief testimony
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